Legwork Facilitates Leadership as HSU Students Bike Across Texas


When Jace Langen, a sophomore bio-chemistry major and microbiology minor from Iowa Park, Texas, enrolled in Hardin-Simmons University’s Leadership Studies Program, he never dreamed that it would lead to the bike ride of his life.

Over the spring semester, Langen and seven other riders began building endurance for a journey that would include the low, palm-tree-dotted flats of South Texas, the rolling terrain of the Texas Hill Country, the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, and a wrap-up 925 miles later in Liberal, Kansas.

“The purpose of the trip was to give leadership students firsthand experience with organization, problem-solving, teamwork, and learning to be aware of individual differences,” said Dr. Coleman Patterson, professor of management and leadership and director of the Leadership Studies Program at HSU.

When Patterson proposed the south-to-north trip across the entirety of Texas, students readily accepted the adventure, which included a vast amount of preparation outside of class time.

“We met every Thursday morning in a zero-credit hour class to plan the ride and spent many hours outside of class riding and training together. All of that planning paid off very well,” said Patterson as he reflected on the journey that ended up with one scratched knee and 13 flat tires over the seven-plus days on the road.  

In preparation for the journey, the students raised $4,300 from various companies with a large sponsorship from Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Texas. Families and friends also helped to make the ride possible with donations.  

Referred to as Bike Ride Across Texas 2 (BRAT 2), this year’s ride was the second time for Leadership Studies students to bike across Texas. Last May another group of leadership students rode from El Paso to Texarkana. The BRAT 2014 route included stops in Brownsville, Premont, Uvalde, Leakey, Abilene, Paducah, Wheeler, and Liberal, Kansas, with students being hosted by Baptist churches in most of the cities.

“Through the planning, preparation, and execution of the project, leadership students also learned goal setting, critical thinking, conflict resolution, supportive communication, and project management,” said Patterson. “The Bike Ride Across Texas gave students the opportunity to practice and develop leadership and organization skills in a real project.”

The bike trip began Saturday, May 10, 2014, as students drove with two support vehicles loaded with bikes and gear to Brownsville, Texas, where they started the bike route despite strong winds and dogs chasing behind them.

Churches along the route hosted the riders and included First Baptist-Premont, where students were invited to speak at the evening service; Tilden Baptist-Tilden; First Baptist-Eden; First Baptist-Paducah; First-Baptist-Wheeler; and First Baptist-Liberal. For the hospitality, students left behind an array of HSU pens, pencils, stickers, view books, pennants, BRAT t-shirts, and coffee mugs. Students were also hosted by the LaQuinta Inn in Brownsville and at the HEB Foundation Camp in Leakey.

“During our overnight stops, we discussed what we have learned, and continue to learn, about obesity prevention, exercise, and healthy living,” said Langen. “Riding our bikes across the state was a good way to illustrate healthy living in practice.”

Presentations at Abilene’s Austin Elementary and Taylor Elementary at the ride’s mid-point layover put HSU students face-to-face with fifth-graders eager to make fitness and exercise regular parts of their lives said Patterson.

“We also discussed the proper hand signals to use when biking, how to map safe routes, what to wear when riding a bike, and how proper nutrition helps to supply your body’s energy demands,” said Langen.

Using a leap-frog technique to cover much of the vastness of Texas, three riders ended with more than 400 miles completed, three students chalked up more than 300, and two riders ended the trip with more than 200 miles. Three riders covered more than 100 miles a day on the second half of the trip through the Texas Panhandle and Patterson was just 15 miles away from reaching the 500-mile mark.

Patterson and Aaron Henry, a freshman rider and psychology major from Lewisville, Texas, even rode an extra 40 miles on the day before heading out to Brownsville with the Texas Baptist Bike Out Hunger riders as they passed through Abilene.

“The eight of us who made the ride were excellent ambassadors for HSU,” said Patterson who is already planning possibilities for future rides. “We had planned to wait two years to restock the Leadership Studies Program with enough crazy people to try a similar experience again,” he quipped, “but we are already thinking about a ride to Canada next summer.”

Funding and sponsors of BRAT 2:

“The student group exceeded its fundraising goals for the trip with support from BlueCross/BlueShield of Texas, Biketown, West Techs, Texas Martial Arts Center, Abi-Haus, Long Horn Steakhouse—New Braunfels, HSU Athletics, and many generous family members and friends—including some special ones from HSU,” said Patterson. “This adventure would not have been possible without the generous support of all of our sponsors.”

Special Recognition by President’s Challenge:

BRAT2 received a special recognition in late April as it was named an “Advocate” for the President’s Challenge. 

The President’s Challenge is a part of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness that advocates and encourages fitness, healthy living, and wellness in communities across the nation. 

The Leadership Studies Program will have its name and project description listed on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness website for the next year. 


More on the Leadership Studies Program:

“Learning occurs both in and out of the classroom as students participate in case studies, travel courses, a variety of special topic courses, and outdoor adventure-education courses like the bike ride,” said Dr. Coleman Patterson. “These all help to complete the Leadership Studies experience.”

Throughout the school year, Leadership students work with nonprofit organizations to implement and practice the concepts that they study in the classroom. As they create and perform service projects, their goal is to meet real community needs.

Students are expected to maintain acceptable grade point averages in all of their college coursework and be involved in organizations on campus, in their church, and in the community.

We are looking for people who want to make differences in their communities and in the lives of others,” said Patterson. “Leadership and teamwork skills are developed through outside-of-class service learning and experiential learning activities in the classroom.”

Students participated in the International Model United Nations Conference in Vienna, Austria, the National Model U.N. Conference in Washington D.C., and Howard Payne University Security Council Simulation Conferences in 2013 and 2014.

Sponsors, photos, videos, and route map:


Photos and videos from the ride:  





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